*Updated with more transcript - 1/27/10
Democrats voted early this morning in the Senate on the initial series of cloture votes with the goal of passing the Senate’s health care bill by Christmas. Following the 1:30 A.M. vote, Sen. Ben Nelson (D - NE) emerged from the floor and spoke to reporters about the bill as well as the controversy surrounding the deal Senator Nelson acquired for Nebraska for full federal funding of Medicaid in perpetuity. The Washington Times asked the Senator if he thought the other states should get the same Medicaid deal that Nebraska received. “Of course. As a matter of fact, I said it needs to be fixed. They chose to fix it this way,” he said.
“I expect because of the length of time, before that ever becomes effective, that the other states will be asking either for full support like Nebraska has achieved right now or that the under funded mandate be removed. Its one or the other. Either we’re going to see it fully funded for all the states or the mandate has to be removed.”
Republican governor of Nebraska Dave Heineman did not want to take responsibility for Sen. Nelson’s Medicaid deal for the state. A press release from the governor’s office criticized the bill saying that “the responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Sen. Ben Nelson.”:
“I wrote him a letter today,” said Mr. Nelson. ”…and said look ‘If you don’t want the money, I’ll be happy to, in conference, see that its taken out.”
Curious about the pro-life language, I asked the Senator about the concerns regarding Indian reservations being left open for government funded abortions in the bill. Mr. Nelson could only say that the issue would have to be dealt with in conference. “We’re going to have to take a look at that. That wasn’t addressed in the process. That was brought about at a later date. It wasn’t addressed in the House with Stupak,” he said.
When The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack noted to the Nebraska Senator that he did not hold out longer for better pro-life language in the bill, the way Sen. Liberman (I - CT) held-out to have the public option dumped. Mr. Nelson only replied, “We introduced Nelson, Hatch, Casey [amendment]. It didn’t get there. There wasn’t sufficient support to be able to get it done, and its just that simple. That doesn’t mean that Stupak might not hold.”:
“We introduced Nelson Hatch Casey, and it didn’t get there. There wasn’t sufficient support to be able to get it done. It’s just that simple, and so that doesn’t mean that Stupak might not hold. If it holds on the House side, I’ll be very happy to have the Stupak language. After all, it’s the same as Nelson-Hatch-Casey.”
He was critical of groups that went after him for supporting the health care bill like Nebraska Right to Life and National Right to Life.:
“So has NARAL [criticized him]. Most of these advocacy agencies want to write the language. They’re not legislators. I don’t assign others to write my language. I try to put together what I thought was the best deal.”
Mr. Nelson did point out that his support of the bill was conditional:
“No bill is perfect. This bill, I think, deserves to move along, and the next step of course will be to see what happens with the conference, and I ‘ve made it clear that if there were any material changes to the understanding that I have, I won’t be supportive at that point with the cloture at that time. Not looking for that to happen. Just want the record reflected that.”
The Senate is continuing its debate on the health care bill today.